Lightning’s Playoff Fate Hinges on Kucherov Showing Up

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Staring at an 0-2 deficit against the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning are in real danger of getting swept out of the first round for the first time since 2019. If that occurs, one key reason would be the play of top-line winger Nikita Kucherov.

For the current Art Ross Trophy winner with 144 points in the regular season, the Lightning probably expect more than the two points and three shots he has in 21 minutes of ice time over the first two games.

While it’s not all on him, the fact the league’s top ranked power play has only one goal in six periods plus is a big issue. Since Kucherov drives the man advantage, failing on a number of opportunities speaks to his lack of urgency so far in the postseason.

Another thing that has stood out to many is his carelessness with the puck and laziness in getting back to defend. There’s been at least one instance where Kucherov has turned the puck over and didn’t get back in time to prevent a goal against. Andrei Vasilevskiy has done his part, but he can’t steal games when the five guys in front of him aren’t all pulling their weight. It’s bad when Tampa Bay sports radio hosts are noticing.

If the Lightning plan to make this a series, they need the Kucherov that literally drove them to a postseason spot. That means making smart plays with and without the puck, shooting the puck when the opportunity presents itself and trying to impact the game in a positive way.

Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point, especially Stamkos, have done their best to keep the Lightning in games. The team needs Kucherov to put them over the top though. There’s a reason he is in the running for the Hart Trophy, given to the NHL’s most valuable player (MVP) during the regular season.

Can the Lightning come back to win this series? While unknown, Kucherov showing up will go a long way towards this team going out with a whimper or going out with a fight.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
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Lauren Burg

Lauren Burg is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer for “Inside the Rink.” A lifelong Tampa Bay Area resident, she graduated from the University of South Florida’s world-renowned journalism program in December 2009. While in college, she discovered hockey and the Tampa Bay Lightning. She quickly became a passionate fan, attending many games over the years. She also experienced an All-Star game in 2018, numerous road games, and, most recently, the Bolts back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Since graduating college, she’s been working hard to combine her two loves, writing and hockey, hoping to one day make that her full-time career. In her free time, she enjoys attending sporting events (both home & road when possible), taking photos, and traveling.

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